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Philadelphia still at work but braced for Irene's arrival

August 27, 2011 | 10:52 am

Philadelphia prepares for Irene

Akbar Zaman planned to squeeze one more day of business out of his cheese steak food truck stationed in downtown Philadelphia, then get it off the street before Hurricane Irene's winds came to town.

That seemed to be the sentiment across the city Saturday: Work today, stay home Sunday, when Irene was expected to hit southeast Pennsylvania, though people weren't sure what it would bring.

Shoppers scurried about loaded down with groceries and businesses reported brisk sales. But Zaman wasn't enjoying an uptick: Cheese steak sandwiches don’t keep well if the power is out.

PHOTOS: In the path of Hurricane Irene

"People are not stopping here today. Pretty quiet," he said from his portable establishment set up not far from City Hall. He said he'd haul it to his home in South Philly before the inclement weather arrived.

A Starbuck’s nearby already had made its decision, posting signs announcing it would shut down Sunday to ride out the storm, with plans to be back on Monday at 5 a.m. -– if there’s power.

Peter Watts reported business as usual at a downtown Vitamin Shoppe. He said the store, as of Saturday morning, was still planning to open on Sunday. Watts moved back to Philadelphia from Miami, where hurricane-watching is a frequent event. It had been an unusual week in the City of Brotherly Love, to say the least.

"I've never even heard of a hurricane around here -– or an earthquake," Watts said, referring to the 5.8-magnitude quake that hit the East Coast on Tuesday.

Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is typically a huge draw on a summer weekend, but there were only handfuls of people milling about outside attractions such as the Liberty Bell on Saturday. Nearby, two visitors were checking out Benjamin Franklin’s grave site at Christ Church Burial Ground.  And one of them was getting ready to catch a plane back to Michigan.

"Last I checked, my flight had not been canceled," said Bill Sharp, who said he lives "in the middle of nowhere" near Traverse City, Mich. "The plane I'm on is coming in from Detroit, so hopefully it will still come in."

Sharp said he didn't have anything to do but wait to go home, so he was just doing a little sightseeing while he could.

Others were focused on keeping things as normal as possible. The Rev. Alan Neale, the rector at the historic Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, said he planned to send an email to his congregation telling them not to resort to extraordinary measures to get to church on Sunday.

But a service would be held, he said.

"A door will be open," said Neale as he walked his dog down Spruce Street. "But due to the hurricane, probably not the glass doors in the front."


First two deaths from Irene reported

Hurricane Irene crashes ashore in North Carolina

Do not underestimate Category 1 storm, FEMA warns

-- David Meeks in Philadelphia

Photo: Sister Clara of the Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archdiocese buys ice at a supermarket in case she loses power, in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala on Saturday.  Credit: Jacqueline Larma/ Associated Press