(CNN) -- More than 50 million people are under a winter weather alert for snow or ice, stretching from Texas to New Jersey.

"Two storm systems swinging underneath a bitter arctic air mass will lead to a plethora of winter weather hazards," the Weather Prediction Center says.

The biggest story will be the developing ice storm that will stretch from Arkansas to Kentucky. This could bring major metro areas to a standstill during the next few days.

Will you see ice or snow?

Ice storm in the making

Freezing drizzle and ice have already started falling across much of the warned areas. This includes portions of the Dallas area and stretches all the way to Virginia.

This will continue through much of the day Wednesday, with even more forecast on Thursday.

Track the storm

Ice storm warnings are in effect for places like Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lexington, Kentucky, where up to half an inch of ice or more is expected. Ice accumulations of half an inch can put as much as 500 pounds of weight on power lines and trees. Some areas haven't seen ice conditions this bad in years.

"This could make for one of the worst weeks for winter weather in eastern Kentucky in over a decade," says the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Kentucky.

"Significant amounts of ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible," says the NWS. "Ice accumulations and winds will likely lead to snapped power lines and falling tree branches that add to the danger."

How to survive winter weather in your car

The NWS also suggests that if you have to travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case you end up stranded on the roadways. People in these warned areas also need to make sure they have enough food and warm blankets in case power goes out for several days.

While this particular setup is perfect for ice to occur, pinpointing exactly where the bulk of the accumulation will occur remains somewhat uncertain.

"Any slight variation in temperature profiles will lead to changes in precipitation type which will then lead to changes in ice accumulations," says the NWS in Louisville. This could mean the difference in one city getting crippling amounts of ice and the next city getting all rain or snow.

"This weather set-up is really a textbook ice-storm situation," CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller says.

"You have warm, spring-like temperatures in the 60s and even 70s in the Southeast, while bitter-cold Arctic air pushes all the way down the Central US to meet the warm air near the Mississippi River and Ohio River. Where these two air masses meet, the warm air rises and the colder air stays near the surface, resulting in precipitation that falls as rain, but freezes at the surface."

Snow for mid-Atlantic

Another round of snow is also forecast for the mid-Atlantic through Thursday, then again on Friday. Places like Washington, DC, and Philadelphia will most likely see around 2 to 3 inches of snow, with higher amounts just outside the city.

Much higher amounts will occur in interior sections of Virginia and West Virginia. Portions of West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania could see 4 to 6 inches, especially in higher elevations.

Baby it's cold outside

The ice could stick around through the weekend, with another blast of Arctic air diving south out of Canada. Sixty million people will experience temperatures below zero over the next week, with 75% of the population below freezing.

It may be the perfect snuggle weather for Valentine's Day, but serious cold like this will be dangerous, especially those with no power. "This means the possibility of power outages with bitterly cold temperatures for several days," says the NWS in Memphis.

Over 6 million are under wind chill alerts from Montana to Michigan and south into Nebraska. Temperatures will plummet as the cold air spills over much of the country, with dozens of record lows possible in the plains and in the South.

Below zero temperatures will reach as far south as the Texas panhandle by late in the weekend into early next week with temperatures as much as 50 degrees below average.

Jackson Dill contributed to this story.

MORE US AND WORLD NEWS

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.