Tropical Storm Barry strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday evening, sending much-needed rain to areas of Florida but creating winds that could grow into a hurricane over the weekend.

By the early evening, Barry was about 315 miles southeast of the Mississippi river and moving northwest at four miles per hour with winds as high as 45 miles per hour. Barry will probably get stronger over the next 24 hours, said hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart.

The storm was expected to strengthen over the next few days, "possibly reaching hurricane force over the weekend," according to Daniel Brown, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

Meanwhile, areas of Florida that had recently been parched by drought now faced floods. About two dozen homes were damaged  by floods as rain swamped streets in many communities. Ten flood watches were posted in South and Central Florida.

Water managers had not yet lifted restrictions on lawn watering imposed during the drought, saying that one storm would not solve the problem.

Emergency Management spokesman Jim Loftus said officials had increased staffing and were watching the storm closely.

"If people have not made their plans yet on what to do when there's a hurricane, now is the time to do it," said Loftus.

Martin County, north of Palm Beach on Florida's east coast, declared a state of emergency Thursday after 8 inches of rain from midnight to noon flooded streets and homes. In Miami, a concert by popular group 'N Sync was postponed.

"We're going to be wet for a few days but this is south Florida — we're used to that," Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.