One can only imagine how these storms must have taken people by surprise in the past. Well, not exactly. Along the southern Chinese coast, for centuries people looked to nature for signs and omens of a typhoon. Locals thought birds had a way of sensing storms and displayed this understanding through their behavior. Suddenly seeing seabirds fly toward the mountains in flocks meant a storm was coming. When birds that normally build nests in high places start building them low also meant a typhoon was approaching.
One omen that has a history as old as the Tang dynasty (618-907) is the so-called Typhoon Mother 颶母(jumu). The Typhoon Mother was a combination of red clouds and split rainbows in the ocean sky that people believed surely heralded the coming of a typhoon. Twenty-first century Chinese government documents continue to list it as one of the signs to look out for heading into typhoon season.