El Niño hits California: These maps tell the story of heavy rains

California is about to be hit by the first El Niño storm of the year. It's the beginning of what could be a week of rain in the drought-battered state.

In Southern California, the heaviest storm is expected Tuesday, when up to two inches of rain is forecast to drop on the coast and valleys and up to four inches could pour onto the mountains and foothills. Forecasters expect four storms to hit the Southland by Friday, but caution that rain is only a part of the story. Waves up to 10 feet could slam the coast south of Point Concepcion through Tuesday and grow to as big as 15 feet on Thursday.

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Parts of Northern California will see more rain and snow. Here are some National Weather Service maps that help explain the weather picture.

A series of storms from the Pacific

Here is a look at the storms set to hit California this week:

A wet period

Rainfall totals will be higher than normal:

Rain projections

Here is a look at projected rainfall totals for Southern California:

Sierra snow

Here is a look at what the storms will bring to the Sierra Nevadas, a key source of California water:

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