"It's an extremely large storm that will last for 36 hours," Bowser said during a morning press conference.
D.C. public schools have been closed for Friday and city employees will be sent home early, the mayor announced, urging other residents to get home early on Friday. Bowser also declared a snow emergency for Friday, banning parking in emergency routes.
Bowser said that officials expected Sunday to be a "major clean-up day," adding that recovery from the potentially historic snowstorm storm could continue into Monday.
McAuliffe's declaration in Virginia, meanwhile, allows resources to help local governments.
Road crews in the commonwealth are working around the clock and pretreating roads "where temperatures permit," according to the governor's office.
Drivers reported major delays in their normal commutes starting Wednesday evening as a light dusting of powder fell and drivers battled icy roads and congestion around the metro area.
Bowser acknowledged that city officials were caught off guard by the snow on Wednesday evening, which fell as people were heading home from work.
"We should have been out earlier with more resources," Bowser said, emphasizing officials have been preparing for several days for the weekend blizzard.