The powerful storm, now at Category 5, is expected to reach SC late Monday.
The storm's exact path is uncertain, but it could affect Georgia and the Carolinas early next week.
North Carolina is still several days away from feeling the effects of Irma, but could begin to feel wind from the storm Sunday and see rough surf and beach erosion as early as today.
State emergency officials said they don't want people to panic but want those in hurricane-prone areas to be prepared. That's because "we don't have a sturdy enough facility to support a major category storm".
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S.C. Adjutant General Bob Livingston said he is preparing for a Category 4 storm, though forecasts say Irma should be weaker than that when it arrives in SC.
Shortly after noon Thursday, Gov. Nathan Deal announced the mandatory evacuation of all areas of Glynn, Camden and McIntosh counties east of I-95 as of Saturday, along with some areas west of I-95 in Glynn and Camden counties.
In the meantime, he urged South Carolinians to look up their evacuation zones and check for established evacuation routes for their communities. The state recently sent five swift-water rescue teams and two N.C. National Guard helicopter teams to assist with Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but Cooper said they would return by Wednesday night.
Dennis Jones is emergency management director for Chatham County, coastal Georgia's most populous county.