Hurricane Ian barrels into Florida's coast

Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's coast. Why Black coaches don't get NFL head coaching jobs. And how Lizzo ended up playing a 220-year-old flute.

👋 It's Laura Davis. It's Wednesday. Let's get to the news!

But first, how about some ani-pals!? 🐾 If you need a break (or even if you don't), check out this compilation of adorable animals that proves you don't have to be the same species to be friends. You're welcome. 

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Hurricane Ian makes landfall

The Gulf of Mexico's warm waters turbocharged Hurricane Ian as it churned toward land, sending the massive Category 4 storm barreling into Florida's Gulf coast with maximum sustained winds near 150 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa along the southwestern coast of Florida, according to the center. Ian's stunning wind speeds were within 2 mph of Category 5, the highest status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The storm also prompted mandatory evacuation orders for 2.5 million Floridians. "It is going to have major, major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding," Gov. Ron DeSantis warned in a briefing Wednesday. "So this is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days." Follow along with our live coverage.

  • What is a Category 5 hurricane? A hurricane is classified as Category 5 once winds reach 157 mph and above. At this level, "catastrophic damage will occur," according to the National Hurricane Center. Only four Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since 1851.

  • How many outages are there? More than 800,000 homes and businesses across Florida already were dark, according to the tracking website Power outages should be expected statewide, Florida Power & Light warned.

  • What can Floridians expect in the coming days? Forecasters say Ian is poised to spend days dumping rain on Florida, a troubling scenario that could lead to widespread flooding and damage.

📲 Keep in touch: Sign up for updates via text message on Hurricane Ian and its aftermath.

📸 Images from Florida: Hurricane Ian blasts state with heavy rain, high winds and storm surge.

Russia set to annex 4 regions in Ukraine

Referendums on joining Russia – dismissed by the West as "shams" – in four Russian-held regions in Ukraine won the overwhelming support of voters, Russian election officials said. Russian-installed Central Elections Committees said voter turnout exceeded 90% in Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia and was 79% in Kherson. But Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said less than 1% of Zaporizhzhia residents voted. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to incorporate the provinces into Russia within days or weeks. The U.S. proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the vote, and Ukraine called for tougher sanctions against Russia. The European Union’s foreign policy chief called the ballots “illegal” and the results “falsified.”

A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Luhansk, Luhansk People's Republic controlled by Russia-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Luhansk, Luhansk People's Republic controlled by Russia-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.

What everyone's talking about

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How much time do kids spend in school? Depends on where they live.

Although research shows more high-quality instructional time is key to catching kids up from COVID-19-era learning disruptions, relatively few districts in the U.S. are doing it. Some districts are actually doing the opposite, adopting four-day weeks to make themselves more attractive to teachers and other staff. And according to new research provided exclusively to USA TODAY, that’s on top of huge variations in how much learning time kids get to begin with. Students’ learning time can differ by nearly 200 hours a year depending on where they live. Read more about the study, shared exclusively with USA TODAY. 

Black NFL assistant coaches left behind in league's coaching pipeline

For decades, NFL teams quietly avoided hiring Black assistants to coach certain position groups, mostly those like quarterback or the offensive line. USA TODAY Sports analyzed demographic information for all on-field coaches in the NFL at the start of this season. The analysis reveals that there are still stark racial disparities among coaches of different position groups – evidence of subconscious stereotypes that helped funnel white assistants to coordinator and head coaching positions while stunting the progress of their Black counterparts. Read more about our analysis here.

Real quick

Why was Lizzo playing a 200-year-old flute?

History and music collided at Lizzo’s concert Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., when the singer played an incredibly rare, 200-year-old crystal flute made for President James Madison. Lizzo was given a grand tour of the Library of Congress' flute vault – the largest such collection in the world – where it has been kept in the vault for decades. Then, onstage at Capital One Arena and under the careful watch of Library staffers, she played a few notes on the delicate crystal flute. "I’m scared,” Lizzo told the crowd. “It’s crystal, it’s like playing out of a wine glass!” After the show, she tweeted, "NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD THIS FAMOUS CRYSTAL FLUTE BEFORE. NOW YOU HAVE."

A break from the news

Laura L. Davis is an Audience Editor at USA TODAY. Send her an email at or follow along with her adventures – and misadventures – on Twitter. Support quality journalism like this? Subscribe to USA TODAY here.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Ian makes landfall, Russia, Ukraine, Lizzo plays James Madison's flute. Thursday's news.