About a month ahead of schedule, the Atlantic Basin's first hurricane of the season has formed, and as of late Friday morning it was gaining strength just over 950 miles east of the eastern-most Caribbean islands.

Hurricane Beryl, which the National Hurricane Center described as a small storm in terms of area coverage but a "brazen" one, was forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles late Sunday or Monday, and tropical-storm and hurricane watches were in effect.

At 5 p.m. its peak winds were clocked at 80 mph, or 6 mph above the threshold for gaining hurricane status, and those winds were forecast to grow to 80 mph in the next 48 hours.

Beryl's size, however, was causing forecast headaches, the center said. Since it is so small, determining even the current intensity is problematical, let alone predicting how powerful it would become.

"Rapid changes in intensity, both up and down, that are difficult to predict are possible during the next couple of days," the hurricane center said

Beryl is precocious, in that the first hurricane in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, on average doesn't form until Aug. 10.

It is the second named storm of the season; Alberto, a "subtropical storm," earned a name by gaining winds of at least 39 mph.

Beryl is not expected to pose any threat to the U.S. mainland.

But if you're heading to the Outer Banks next week, keep an eye on the hurricane center site. Forecasters say a mass of showers and thunderstorms a few hundred miles off the Carolina coast has become a tropical depression.

Positions of Beryl and tropical depression off Carolina coast late Friday.
National Hurricane Center
Positions of Beryl and tropical depression off Carolina coast late Friday.

"Interests along the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts should monitor the progress of this system during the next several days," the hurricane center says.