"There is a lot we still don't know about this storm, but we do know that North Carolina can expect to feel some sort of effects as soon as early next week, and now is the time to get prepared", Cooper said in a statement.
Stanly County's emergency officials have been steadily preparing for the worst.
State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the Ashevile staging area for equipment and supplies would open on Sunday.
Unsafe surf and rip currents will continue through the next several days along the entire coast.
Almost a year after Hurricane Matthew, which caused rivers in North Carolina to rise even higher than Hurricane Floyd (dubbed the "Flood of the Century" in 1999), the state has been shortchanged and seemingly forgotten.
DOT officials said they were also shifting resources west in part to keep I-26 flowing.
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"Once the storm starts, law enforcement can not save you", Scott said at a news conference in Sarasota.
The 5 p.m. Saturday update from the National Hurricane Center shows all of North Carolina out of Hurricane Irma's "cone of uncertainty" as the storm's projected path shifts westward.
He encouraged North Carolinians, in all 100 counties, to know what they will do when the storm hits. This is a tremendous storm. Thursday morning, James was traveling to pick up a third supply of generators, all already sold.
The region's universities, which have substantial numbers of students and faculty commuting along narrow mountain roads that susceptible to landslides and through valleys that could be threatened by flooding, are also keeping an eye on the system.
Even as Hurricane Irma threatens, some North Carolinians are still living in hotels and other temporary housing as a result of Matthew.
"There are a lot of people who were hit by Hurricane Matthew a year ago", James explained. But because of the size of the hurricane, Florida's east coast remains in danger, including from storm surges that will easily overwhelm some areas.
The heavy rain and fast winds of Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean islands Wednesday, leaving up to 10 dead as it heads toward Florida, leaving dozens injured. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for all of southern Florida and the Florida Keys until midnight Eastern Time.