WASHINGTON (MCT) — Tropical Storm Bertha strengthened Sunday as it moved to the west, with forecasters saying it may likely become the first Atlantic hurricane of the season, an early indication that this year's season could be as busy as usual, if not busier.

As of 11 a.m. EDT Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 1,200 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. Bertha's sustained winds were at 50 mph.

The forecast put the chances of Bertha's winds reaching hurricane velocity of 74 mph or more by Tuesday at 52 percent. The odds of it reaching those speeds by Wednesday was estimated at 60 percent.

The tentative forecast had Bertha slowly moving west with the most likely track missing the Bahamas to the south and Bermuda to the north. Currently, the storm is not projected to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is much too early to determine if Bertha will eventually affect any land areas," the hurricane center said.