Barry Alan Swegle was booked into the Clallam County Jail for investigation of malicious mischief following the incident in Port Angeles, 65 miles west of Seattle.
Sheriff's spokesman Jim Borte said investigators were told that Swegle and his neighbors had a long-running dispute, but it's not clear over what. The rampage knocked over a utility pole and left a pickup truck destroyed, and the downed power lines were preventing authorities from fully evaluating the damage to the homes.
Barbara Porter was inside her house when she saw the machine come barreling through her walls.
"You could just hear noise things getting broke up and tore up and pushed into my place," she said.
Porter ran out of the house before she, too, was crushed.
"I knew I had to get out of the house because I was afraid he was going to tear it down, and I don't think I would have lived if I had been in it and he had tore it down," she said.
Borte said the machine was an International Harvester TD-25, similar to a Caterpillar D-9. Investigators were looking into whether the man owned it.
Keith Haynes lives near one of the damaged homes and told the Peninsula Daily News the man "just went nuts."
Haynes said a woman inside one of the homes escaped unharmed.
"He took a skidder and took out two houses," Haynes said. "I mean demolished."
Haynes said a new Ford truck also was damaged in the incident.
"It was like a war zone," Haynes, a former law enforcement officer who has lived in that neighborhood for two years, told the paper.
Another witness to the destruction screamed at Swegle to stop.
"When I'm yelling, 'What are you doing?' He looked right at me. He was just - he was blanked face. That was it. he didn't care," said neighbor Bobee Ward.
At one point thousands of people were without power, but within a few hours it had been restored to all but 200 customers, said Clallam County Public Utility District spokesman Mike Howe. He said power would remain out to those customers at least through early Saturday morning.
On Friday evening, Swegle's mother said she's just grateful that no one was hurt or killed.