El Niño is here.

Of course, it has been for a while. Strange weather, from West Coast spring hurricanes to L.A. winter heat waves, has graced  Southern California for months. Telltale Pacific Ocean warmth has been unprecedented, even as the holidays arrived.

Now, pretty much right on time (this kid is Latino?), El Niño is poised to bring us nearly a week's worth of rain, starting today.

We reported last week that New Year's rain was en route, but we said “don't call it El Niño.”

To be fair, we did our research for that piece on Wednesday, and at the time it didn't appear to the forecasters we interviewed that most of the rain was assuming El Niño-pattern winter weather for SoCal.

Things change, especially in the weather game. Three systems are coming ashore this week, starting today, and all seem to be drawing Pacific moisture from the southwest, El Niño-style.

“Be prepared,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters last night. “This storm is real, and it's coming.”

The El Niño storm pattern expected by experts this winter is one that will bring in precipitation from a more southerly jet stream, which tends to strike our coast almost head-on.

Predictions that the first pulse of the week's rain will be hit or miss, while the second one tonight into Tuesday will bring the most rain seem to be holding.

Today's storm could bring snow to the 5,500-foot level, according to the National Weather Service.

Tomorrow's front will bring “widespread rain” to Southern California, as well as snow at 6,000 feet and above, federal forecasters said.

“Significant snow of 1 to 2 feet with strong winds could create winter storm conditions above 7000 feet,” the weather service said in a statement. “The Tuesday system will also bring the potential for brief higher intensity rainfall rates, which could bring the threat of flash flooding and debris flows in recent burn areas.”

Credit: NWS

Credit: NWS

Some forecasters have predicted that as many as 2 inches of rain will fall in the L.A. Basin during the second front. 

“While most of the rain and snow will fall at moderate rates with minimal impact, there will be heavier rain later Tuesday into Tuesday night which could cause some flooding in some of the hills surrounding Los Angeles,” said senior meteorologist Matt Rinde of private forecaster AccuWeather.

A third and possibly fourth front were expected Wednesday through Friday, the NWS stated. 

“These appear to be colder systems with snow levels potentially falling to around 4000 feet, at times possibly impacting Interstate 5 near the Grapevine,” the weather service stated. “There will also be the potential for brief, heavy downpours and isolated thunderstorms later in the week. Periods of gusty winds through next week will bring the potential for downed trees and power outages.”

As many as 3 feet of snow could be dumped in local mountains during the second half of the week, according to AccuWeather.

“The track of these storms is fueled by El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean,” the forecaster stated.

Mayor Garcetti urged Angelenos to prepare for the worst. He said that sandbags for hillside residents concerned about flooding were available at local Los Angeles Fire Department stations.

Culver City officials also said that free sandbags for residents were available at Fire Station 1, 9600 Culver Blvd.

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