FINDLAY -- Flood warnings were posted across northwest Ohio today that included forecasts for major flooding on the troublesome Blanchard River and Eagle Creek in Findlay.
The National Weather Service also predicted "moderate" Blanchard flooding downstream in Ottawa and expected numerous other rivers in northwest Ohio to rise from their banks overnight or today as heavy rain soaked the area.
At 3 p.m. today, the Blanchard was at 7.7 feet at the Findlay flood gauge, but it was expected to reach the 11-foot flood stage overnight and rise to about 15.5 feet by early Monday morning. At that depth, Findlay is split in half by floodwater with many downtown businesses affected and nearby streets inundated.
Eagle Creek was one foot below its 9.0-foot flood stage at 3 p.m. and was expected to flood by evening. Its crest was forecast to be 11.2 feet, short of the level at which several low-lying neighborhoods would need to be evacuated, but the weather service also cautioned that additional rain was likely and could be especially problematic if thunderstorms formed.
The American Red Cross said it would open a temporary shelter in Glenwood Middle School, 1715 N. Main St., at 11 a.m. today for anyone fleeing flooding in the Findlay area.
"With the forecast calling for more rain, and an uncertainty on how high the river level will rise, we want to be proactive in providing help to families that may be forced from their homes by flooding," Todd James, executive director of the Red Cross chapter for Hancock, Seneca, and Wyandot counties. "We encourage everyone who may be threatened by flood waters to take steps now to prepare to evacuate their homes if necessary.
"Families may want to call family or friends to see if they can stay with them, but for anyone who needs a safe place to stay, we will be there to help," Mr. James said.
Food will be available, and anyone using the shelter should enter the school building from the rear, the Red Cross said.
Downstream in Ottawa, the weather service said the 23-foot flood stage would be reached early today, with a crest at 27.1 feet Monday evening. Flooding starts in Ottawa's south side at 27 feet, and other areas nearby also will be affected, forecasters said.
Flood warnings also were issued for the Huron, Sandusky, Portage, Vermilion, Auglaize, and Maumee rivers.
The Huron was expected to reach its 18-foot flood stage in Milan overnight and rise three feet higher by morning, which would begin to flood businesses in low-lying areas along U.S. 250.
Moderate flooding was expected along the Sandusky River near Tiffin, which was expected to crest 1.6 feet above flood stage there late today. Downstream near Fremont, the weather service said flooding would start by afternoon and crest at 10.9 feet, 0.9 feet above flood stage, which the agency classified as minor flooding.
Minor flooding also was forecast for the Vermilion River near Vermilion, Ohio and the Portage River near Woodville, but the former could still close a low-lying stretch of State Rt. 60, while Woodville's Trail Marker Park and other flood-prone spots are likely to be inundated Sunday and Monday.
The Auglaize River was expected to rise almost four feet above its 13-foot flood stage at Fort Jennings, Ohio, with a crest Monday evening. Officials cautioned some evacuations of low-lying homes might be necessary.
The Blanchard and Auglaize are both tributaries to the Maumee, for which the weather service warned of moderate flooding at Grand Rapids and minor flooding at Waterville.
At 9 a.m. today, the Maumee was just 3.8 feet deep at Grand Rapids, but it was expected to rise to 15.0 feet by nightfall today and reach 16.5 feet Monday afternoon. Its waters were expected to flood Thurston State Park and other nearby lowlands.
For Waterville, forecasters said the Maumee should reach the 9-foot flood stage late today and reach 11.7 feet by Monday evening. The predicted crest would be just below the level at which Sidecut Metropark floods.