SAN FRANCISCO — Forced by drought to become miserly with water, Californians were warned against reverting to old habits Tuesday as the first of several storms spawned by a record-tying El Nino began drenching the state.

A series of storms lining up over the Pacific Ocean was welcome news in parched California, despite their potential for causing flash floods and mudslides.

But authorities cautioned that even the wettest of winters can’t replenish depleted reservoirs and aquifers unless everyone keeps pitching in.

California’s water deficit is so deep after four years of drought that a “steady parade of storms” like these will be needed for years to come, said Mike Anderson, climatologist for the state’s Department of Water Resources.

The current El Nino – a natural warming of the central Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide – has tied 1997-1998 as the strongest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said.

El Ninos usually bring heavy rains to California, although it remains to be seen whether people should expect anything like a repeat of 1997 and 1998, when storms killed 17 people.

“DarthNino may finally have California in its sights,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.

“A parade of strong Pacific storms characteristic of a strong El Nino event will batter the state this week and will likely bring damaging flooding by the time the second storm in the series rolls through on Wednesday,” Masters said.

However, Masters and meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private WeatherBell Analytics don’t believe this first storm is as powerful as some other Pacific storm systems, and caution that the storms now following it may land elsewhere.

The current forecast calls for a “kind of a nice level of bombardment” over the next two weeks; probably not enough to cause the tremendous flooding of 1998, but then again, that year’s floods didn’t peak until February, Masters said.