ATLANTA -- Governor Nathan Deal ordered what he’s calling a mandatory evacuation from six Georgia counties in the path of Hurricane Matthew. But he clarified that it’s really voluntary.

The voluntary evacuation came Wednesday, upgraded Thursday to a mandatory evacuation – and it affects people on the coast east of I-95.

"The mandatory evacuation designation is significant. It is the highest warning we can give to people," Deal said during a press conference Thursday at the Capitol.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew

When asked if there's a legal difference between a voluntary evacuation and a mandatory evacuation, Deal said: "There probably is, but we don’t want to test that legal distinction. We don’t think it is appropriate (to) physically remove people. However, they are the ones most likely needing to be removed after the consequences of the storm have already descended upon them."

PHOTOS | Coastline prepare for Hurricane Matthew

Deal said coastal residents need to heed weather forecasts, and take responsibility for their own decisions whether to comply with the evacuation directive. State government has a half dozen agencies – from homeland security to state parks – standing by to help evacuees should they need it.

"I have not been one who has overreacted (to weather forecasts). But we do we do want to imply to everyone that it is serious. And we stand ready to help but people have to help themselves first," Deal said.

RELATED | LIVE | Hurricane Matthew Interactive Coverage

MORE | Current weather forecast

WATCH | Weather cameras

INTERACT | Tell us what you see by posting on our Facebook page or Tweet using #Storm11

UPLOAD | Send us your weather pictures here

Download the FREE app now in the iTunes store or on Google Play.

POWER OUTAGES CHECK | Georgia Power customers, check here. Georgia EMC customers check here.

PHOTOS: SC Evacuates from Hurricane Matthew