OTTAWA — An improving weather forecast is giving area rivers a chance to recede from what could have been another spate of damaging floods.Earlier forecasts calling for an inch or more of rainfall today were updated later, and the amount of expected rainfall reduced significantly. Recent heavy rains and saturated soil have pushed streams and rivers to the brink, particularly in flood-prone areas of Putnam and Hancock counties.Minor flooding is expected today in Findlay, where the Blanchard River's flood stage is 11 feet. The river had swelled to 9.58 feet at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The National Weather service said it would crest at 12.5 feet this afternoon.Earlier, the weather service had forecast a crest of 15 feet or more. “We're very fortunate to avoid major damage this time,” said Findlay Safety Director Jim Barker. “The rain system lost much of its energy to the south and west of us.” Findlay continued to offer free sandbags for any resident who needed them, Barker said. The American Red Cross closed an emergency shelter, he said. Anyone needing help can call the 2-1-1 referral service provided through the United Way.Some Findlay streets were closed and would remain closed today. Old state Route 224 and Road 1 near the Hancock County Line also was barricaded because of high water, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.In Ottawa, the Blanchard was expected to crest Friday at 23.5 feet. That's about 6 inches above the flood stage of 23 feet.The resulting flooding will be minimal, said Ottawa Community Development Director Jeff Loerke. By comparison, the river crested at 28.46 feet in the first week of March, when melting snow and heavy rain caused some moderate damage. The Blanchard hit 31.71 feet on Aug. 23, 2007, after the torrential rains of Hurricane Katrina.Loerke said the Weather Service changed its forecast after updating its model of the rain-bearing weather system approaching from the south. He said a number of weather and water measuring gauges along the river appear to confirm the accuracy of Weather Service's updated forecast.Sandbags remain available in Ottawa for any resident who needs them, Loerke said. Residents can get sandbags from the Municipal Parking Lot or Municipal Garage at 1323 N. Defiance St.In Fort Jennings, the Auglaize River had swelled to 12.51 feet at 1 p.m. Wednesday. It was expected to crest at 14.1 feet around 1 a.m. Friday, about one foot more than flood capacity. On Wednesday, the river was beginning to flood a low-lying municipal park at the southeast edge of Fort Jennings.Rivers in Allen and Auglaize counties were swollen but not expected to crest anywhere near their capacity, the weather service said.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.