THE COAST 95 Harrison County. The Coast and the Military The military presence along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is strong. Keesler Air Force Base opened in 1941 and today is the largest technical training wing in the Air Force—the 81st Training Wing. Also, it ranks as the largest medical training site in the Southeast United States, with the 81st Medical Group. The Hurricane Hunters, an elite group of pilots with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, began in 1946 and continue today. They fly ten Lockheed WC-130J aircraft into weather systems and storms to gather intelligence for reporting purposes. By the 1990s, a renewed interest in gambling for Harrison County emerged. Harrison and Hancock countians approved dockside gambling, and in 1992, the Isle of Caprice opened in Biloxi. With this new industry, by 2004, over 42 million people visited Mississippi. However, when Hurricane Katrina slammed Harrison County, the casino industry was hit hard. Many of the casinos floated off of their dockside moorings because of the waters and wind of the storm and caused extensive damage as they bulldozed over inland areas. Hurricane Katrina created a thirty-two-foot tidal surge. As a result, to avoid other such disasters, casinos can now establish gambling operations on the north side of Highway 90 in Harrison County on firm land rather than continue only dockside anchoring. Today, ten casino properties exist in HANCOCK BANK Hancock Bank opened on October 9, 1899, in Bay St. Louis with $10,000 in capital and $8,277.41 in opening-day deposits. Today, Gulfport based parent company Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq: HBHC) has assets of $28 billion—the largest financial services company headquartered in Mississippi, with regional business headquarters and 200-plus locations serving people and businesses across a growing Gulf South corridor. Guided by core values of honor and integrity, strength and stability, commitment to service, teamwork, and personal responsibility, the bank provides comprehensive financial products and services through Hancock Bank locations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and Whitney Bank locations in Louisiana and Texas. The bank also operates a loan production office in Nashville, Tennessee. In August 2005, the bank opened the day following Hurricane Katrina to be able to distribute cash to its dedicated customers. Less than twenty-four hours after the storm, branches of the bank opened in parking lots using flash lights and folding tables. Survivors of the storm were allowed $200 in cash if they were able to provide any identifying information, with some writing information down on a sticky note for the bank. Customer or not, people were needing cash to assist their families in recovery efforts in order to pay for travel or purchase basic needs such as ice. Hancock Bank gave around $50 million out after the storm on an “honor-system” but only lost about $200,000. PHOTOS COURTESY OF HANCOCK BANK