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Shelley Duvall’s Tragic True Life Story

In the early hours of January 17, 1994, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake shook much of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, California. It only lasted for a dozen or so seconds; the damage it left, however, lasted much longer.

In addition to causing north of $20 billion in property damage alone ($42 billion in today’s dollars) and resulting in over double that in terms of total economic losses, the quake claimed the lives of 72 people (including those who died of heart attacks), injured over 7,000 more, and left 20,000 people without shelter. Among those affected was Shelley Duvall, whose house was severely damaged to the point that it played a major role in her ultimate decision to leave LA for good. Shelley Duvall Archive on X, an account on X run by a personal friend of Duvall’s and dedicated to extensively documenting and archiving photos, articles, and events from throughout her life, shared a quote from Duvall attributed to a 1994 issue of the Houston Chronicle: “I can deal with hurricanes,” he said. “But it’s extremely frightening to have the earth move so much. Being a Texan, you kind of know when to get the heck out of Dodge.”

She spoke about the earthquake’s effect on her life in a 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, in which she elaborated that it wasn’t just the disaster itself that wore her out. “Afterwards, it’s like FEMA, then the next guys, and the next guys,” she said. “Engineers one day, insurance people the next. Sometimes at the same time.”

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