Series of storms to pummel California with rain, snow, wind; flooding, mudslides possible

Doyle Rice
Series of storms to pummel California with rain, snow, wind; flooding, mudslides possible

The USA's wild weather will shift from the East to the West this week.

California will take the brunt of the storminess: Flooding rain, yards of snow and mudslides are expected. The first of three Pacific storms barreled into the state Monday, closing roads, snarling traffic and drenching the striking teachers in Los Angeles

Interstate 5, the main north-south highway in California, was closed Monday because of heavy snow, stranding cars and trucks. 

The storms were expected to bring several rounds of heavy rain, mountain snow, gusty winds, rough surf and possible flooding through the week, the National Weather Service said. Even worse, areas burned by last year's devastating wildfires will be especially prone to mudslides.  

California officials ordered evacuations for residents in several zones in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles: "People in these zones must go now," officials wrote in a news release. "Rainstorms carry the potential for dangerous debris flows that can send mud, boulders and trees crashing down hillsides."

Later Monday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations for the Sherpa, Whittier and Thomas fire burns areas and debris flow risk areas beginning at 10 a.m. PST Tuesday.

More: Palm Springs could get inch of rain this week; Holy Fire burn area under evacuation

More: Millions digging out from killer storm, bracing for more winter havoc

The wild weather is the result of a strong jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, which will funnel an "atmospheric river" of moisture into the state. Atmospheric rivers are ribbons of water vapor that can extend thousands of miles from the tropics to the western USA. 

Snow totals in the mountains will be impressive;  as much as 7 feet is possible in some spots, AccuWeather said. "In the mountains, there can be at least a couple of yards of snow in the high country of the central and southern Sierra," according to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Snow in mountains near Los Angeles will be a boon for ski resorts, though gusty winds will make mountain travel difficult to impossible.

The rain and snow aren't all bad news because most of the state remains in a drought, according to the Weather Channel. A few areas in far Northern California and Southern California have severe or extreme drought conditions.

Contributing: Colin Atagi, Palm Springs Desert Sun

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Series of storms to pummel California with rain, snow, wind; flooding, mudslides possible